Yesterday, I disagreed with Driftglass' when he insisted the Christian Right had not retreated from the so-called "Culture Wars". I erred, however, because I said they had, when I should have been more precise and said that, in fact, they are retreating. There are a plethora of articles linked over at Faith in Public Life.org that show the increasing diversity and creativity within evangelical circles, even those to the right on the political spectrum. I shall simply note this one on the resignation (it may have been forced; I am stil unclear about that) of the Rev. Joel Hunter as President of the Christian Coalition. Amazingly enough, he wanted to expand the group's agenda to include positive work with and for the poor (among other items) and they refused.
The groups has ceased to be a serious contender since 1996, and its increasing focus on two negative issues - opposition to legal abortion and opposition to gay marriage which is only legal in Massachusetts - will push it even further to the margins of our political discourse. More to the point, I think this shows the increasing irrelevance of "Culture War" rhetoric. The Christian Coalition is now a hollow shell of what it once was because it could not expand beyond these two issues. Evangelical churches, even those with rightist leanings are growing precisely because they are moving forward on issues of poverty and socio-economic justice, environmental activism, including action to curb gloabl warming, and human rights issues, especially in Darfur. These are hardly headline-grabbing issues; pelting women with plastic fetuses is a good way to get on the evening news, while working quietly to help educate and employ the poor is not. Yet there is little warrant in scripture for the first and much for the second. That is why, in the end, the culture wars were always doomed to fail (if they ever in fact existed at all).
As more and more Churches began to feel the tug of the call to act for people, sitting around and whining about how horrible Hollywood and rock music are became less important than making sure hungry people got fed and the planet doesn't become a wasteland incapable of sustaining vast human populations. This does not mean that there won't be a tattered remnant of the misguided faithful, clinging to their posters of aborted feti, screaming about "Adam and Steve" (I had a friend named Steve whose boyfriend was Adam, and they just loved that particular bit of business). It just means they will become increasingly irrelevant as their influence wanes in the halls of power.
As a side note, Iread a column from a Sunday paper in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, written by culture uber-warrior Cal Thomas, and I think I spoke too soone about him retreating from the culture wars. Part of the column concerned the feritility rates among the industrialized nations versus those in developing nations, especially (in this case) Muslim ones. I am always surprised at the concern over sex among some of these folks. On the one hand, they don't want people having sex until they are married; once these folks are married, however, appraently all caution is tossed aside, and the women folk are supposed to start popping out babies like an industrial toaster, especially because the darker races who worship a demon named Allah are much more fertile. The racism in such thoughts is appalling, as is the cultural supremacy inherent in the idea that we have a duty to produce as many white Christian children as possible to replace the dwindling supply of Christian soldiers. In essence, this is Nazi-talk. The only good thing about such ideas is they are as marginal as anti-flouridation crusades.
I have problems with much of popular culture. We do not have cable or satellite television in our house because most of what is on in garbage. I do not listen to commercial radio because most of what is on is garbage. My wife and I rarely go to movies because there are so few that have any meaning. In a society where access to the private sex videos of individuals is the subject of an entire website, all sorts of boundaries are crossed that need to be propped back up - not in law, but certianly through common consent and general persuasion. I do not believe, however, that the right-wing war on popular culture was ever more than a publicity stunt, as the culture got trashier and trashier even as the right-wing gained more and more power in Washington. For now, however, we can content ourselves that the worst excesses of the warriors against American culture are past.